Reaction to the Helvetica Movie


A couple of classes ago, we watched the Helvetica movie. Helvetica was created in 1957 by Swiss typographer Max Miedinger. Helvetica is a clear, rational typeface. It seems like designers either love, or strongly dislike using the Helvetica typeface. This video showed us designers with a lot of different backgrounds, styles, and opinions.


Matthew Carter.

Matthew Carter is a modernist who shared in the video. Matthew Carter created Georgia and Verdona, among other typefaces. His father is Harry Carter, who was a typographer himself. Carter was educated in creating type by hand, before digital type.

Matthew Carter released the Georgia typeface in 1996.
Paula Scher.

Paula Scher is a post-modernist who shared in the video. Paula Scher is very much against Helvetica. She describes Helvetica as used for persuasive corporate culture. Scher is one of the designers who wanted to move away from the so common use of Helvetica. She says this about overused typefaces:

“The more you see it, the more you can appreciate when it’s terrific.”

This is very true. Although Helvetica may be used often, and may seem generic, the fact that it’s seen in so any places does give the viewer the ability to see where it’s used beautifully, and where it’s used carelessly. Below are some examples of Paula Scher’s work:

Posters for the Public Theater by Paula Scher.

I personally like Helvetica. It’s not my go-to font, but I like the simplicity of it, and its smooth, non-decorative look. It’s very modern and it works great for logos or advertising because it’s easy to read.


Research for packaging design at Hannaford

In October, our class took a trip to Hannaford to do some research on packaging design. I was given the category of household goods, which includes lightbulbs, laundry/dishwasher products, sponges, matches, kitchen tools, etc. I decided to go with laundry products; more specifically: the Hannaford brand fabric softener sheets.

Here are the questions I answered about the product at the store:

1a. What are the products they are shelved with? What is the packaging of these products like? What do they have in common. Is there a general personality for these products? Do you see certain elements or motifs repeated amongst the products?


The Hannaford fabric softener sheets are shelved with other fabric softener sheets, and places on shelves above liquid fabric softeners. generally, the packaging for these products use bright colors and bold text: blue, orange, pink, yellow, and green. A lot of these products either a soft, or bold personality. The downy products all feel very soft, like you would want your clothes to be. The gain and bounce products feel a little more bold and in your face, due to the bright orange. A lot of these products have flowers on their packaging: the Downy Infusions, the Bounce Dryer sheets on the top shelf, and one of the products on the bottom shelf in the right hand corner.

1b. Amongst the products it is shelved with, which is the nicest example of packaging of this type of product? Is there a package there that is innovative and shows a greater emphasis on design?

The Downy Infusions Fabric Softener Sheets package is the best example of packaging of this type of product. The bright colors and bold lettering are the expected style for this kind of product, but I feel that the look is outdated and could use a change. The Downy Infusions products have a new and beautiful look to them, with the black background and the unique colors of the flowers. It’s inviting, and definitely will draw the eye of people who choose their products based on the prettiest design! The other Downy products are also better examples of how to package this product vs. Bounce and Hannaford and the other products. They use light blue and pink creating a soft feel for the product, which really shows what the product is meant for… making your clothes nice and soft and cozy. Hannaford’s fabric softener sheets are placed right next to this product on the shelf.


1c. Is there an established color scheme that consumers are familiar with for this type of product? (example: blue for some brands of pasta, red for others. Cleaning products extremely bright)

For the most part, laundry products a have bright colored packages. I saw a lot of blue, orange, pink, yellow, and green. The orange is definitely the brightest.

1d. What are the established branding conventions of the graphics that are too important to loose in a redesign?

All of the fabric softener sheets have the the same rectangular box size. So that is something that I kept the same in the redesign. The scent, weight, amount of sheets, and size are also important to display in the design. I kept the same information on the new design as was on the old design, and put the same information on the same flaps of the box, for majority of the information; while altering a few things.

1e. What typography conventions are used?

Sans serif  type is most commonly used in these products. A lot of the products, like Bounce and Gain use bold, blocky lettering for the brand name. Downy uses a more toned down, type. The Downy Infusions product uses script, which I really enjoy looking at.

2. Is there a package that is engineered in a innovative and inspiring container. There are many new technologies being used in package design. (example: see enspired chocolate and soymamelle) Make notes.

The Downy Infusions bottle has a very unique shape compared to the other Downy and Gain products. The dryer sheets all use the same style box.

3. Is it an areas of consumer goods that seems to be embracing new and innovative packaging?

Downy Infusions is using a new and innovative packaging style. The colors are very different and unique. It’s a very modern style that is appealing to younger people It is much more beautiful than the other designs, it almost reminds me of a wedding invitation, with the script type and the flowers.

4. Is there an example that seems to be stuck in an older era of packaging and needs new design?

The Hannaford brand is rather boring and bland. It is simple text with the image of the colored towels. I feel that so much more could be done with this product to make it more appealing to the customer.

5. How many different substrates (material the package is made of) can you notice?

All of the fabric softener sheet boxes are made out of a thin cardboard material.

6. How many different specialty printing methods (foil, embossed, debossed) can you notice?

I didn’t see any foil, embossing, or debossing on any of these products. They do all have perforated edges where the box is opened.


Design and Illustrate a Label with Jon Contino, from Skillshare


“Label designing, as different as it is is still a very unique and special art form.”

In the second part of the lesson, My Favorite Hand-illustrated Labels, Jon gave three different stages in creating a label design:

  1. Research: Research the product’s competition, products, style, history of the company, and where the product will sit on the shelf.
  2. Sketching: Sketch your product. How will it exist? You want to make sure that the correct items are emphasized.
  3. Finalizing: Self critique yourself, get ready for production, go back to your research and make sure you’re on track with the goals.

He shows us some old items with labels he really likes, a whiskey bottle and a whiffle ball box. He points out that on the whiffle ball box, there are only two colors, but it looks like three because white acts as a color. It’s so cool that you can use the white to add that extra dynamic to your design! You can also use transparencies to create different colors out of the existing color.

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Jon Contino’s favorite kind of labels to create are apparel labels. He shows us some tags that have a nice tea stain and a distressed look that he created by using rocks in a dryer. I love homemade, organic look of this tag. He says label design like this is all about going out and finding a way to create it in the simplest way possible.


The third part of the lesson is called Translating  your mood board in to Sketches. He talks about how the company who hires you to create a label can’t communicate exactly what they want you to do. The best thing for a client to do is send pictures of other labels and brands that they like to five you ideas and inspiration. They can create a mood board for you. You are going to take all of the elements they give you and develop a language for the company. You need to find a way to translate all of the visual information into one  label in order to tell the story of the product.

“Clients should give you idea of aesthetics in visuals so you can know where they are coming from.”

He sketches out a wine label with us. He figures out where different items will go and starts drawing images and text. After he’ done he points out the most important area vs. less important area. He points out the requirements, the 750 ml, 2010, etc. that that customer will want to see.

The last part of the lesson is Working with your Top Design. At this point we have a lot of different ideas to compare. They have different hierarchies, layouts, looks on the shelf, and all together styles.

After choosing the best design to represent the product thus far, Jon creates a final black & white ink piece. Black and white is great because it creates a high contrast, so it will be easy to separate in Illustrator. He brings the image into Illustrator and creates a vector. Now that the design is on the computer, it will be easy to play with different elements and colors and mix and match different aspects.

Here you can see the comparison of some of Jon’s different ideas. The colors and style relate back to the Argentina flag theme. The right image is the final design.

I enjoyed this video. Jon Contino did a great job of getting his point across in a concise way. I also like his hand-drawn style.

View the video here.

Progress on Redesign

Here is my idea for the package coming to life. I drew the word “spring” in my sketchbook and then took a photo and brought it into Illustrator where I did an image trace and made it into a vector. I used the Wacom pen to fill in some areas and to smooth some lines. I have photographs of a series of watercolor paintings I did over the summer and I thought they would work for this project! I spent some time using Photoshop to cut out different flowers from a few of the paintings. I began collaging them on illustrator behind the “spring fresh” text. I was originally only going to use pink flowers but I was liking the way the pink text looked against the green flowers. I wasn’t sure if these flowers were working for this design because they’re pretty bright; I had pictured using a softer theme. However, as noted in the grocery store, many of the laundry products use bright colors in their packaging, so it may be working. I may make some different paintings and try to use less flowers to make the design a little more minimal and see how that works.

Sketch for Spring Fresh.
Experimenting with colors and using Photoshop to cut out flowers from some of my watercolor paintings.
Experimenting with layering flowers for the actual package.

Peter Mendelsund’s Skillshare course

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I just finished watching Peter Mendelsund’s Skillshare course, Read, Think, Design: Creating Stunning Book Covers. This course was awesome. It was easier for me to focus on than the previous Skillshare video.

In the first section of the course, Peter Mendelsund suggests looking at other artist’s designs. He says to pick out those that you like and designs that you don’t like and ask yourself, “why? or why not?” The next step is to imitate these designs to see that you can make them yourself. This is so important. I like to go on Pinterest when I’m working on a project and get ideas from others who have worked on the same type of project. We do this a lot too with the blogs and websites Kathy provides for us on blackboard to see other artists’ work and learn about what’s out there.

Before starting the actual book cover, we need to identify our goals. Peter Mendelsund says the three goals in book cover design are:

  1. The cover has to represent the author’s work.
  2. It has to sell the book.
  3. It needs to be new.

He suggests trying different mediums because that can be a way for you to stretch yourself as an artist. In this section he explained a little bit of how his process works and showed us some of his book cover designs.

“A title for an author is like what a book jacket is for a designer.”

Peter Mendelsund reads through the poem with us and underlines the important parts. He picks out the three component parts or the title: wondering, loneliness, & clouds. He emphasized that getting to the end of the novel is important because the ending is always very significant and impacts your takeaway from the book.

Every text tells a story and we must:

  1. Understand the story at face value.
  2. Discern the underlying meaning.

He also brought up TI sheets, which he says contains the summary of the novel, previous sales history, marketing notes, the target audience, and that sort of thing. This was pretty cool because I hadn’t really thought about or heard of that before.

Mendelsund goes through and sketches some thumbnails of potential book cover ideas. Will the cover use a photo, drawing, painting, collage, just words, or maybe something digital? These are all things to consider. Even sub-questions, like: will the photo be a stock photo, and where will I get it from? Or will I hire someone to do a photo shoot, or will I take the photos myself? He shows use some more of his cover designs and describes the medium he used for each cover.

“Your media choice should inform the way you feel about the cover.”

The last few sessions of the lesson were my favorites. In designing the cover, he brings up an important point. “The only limits are your imagination and financial boundaries.” It’s important to ask your client at the very beginning, “How much can we spend per book cover?” Different production techniques have different costs, so it’s important to consider price before the designing.

It was super cool to watch Peter Mendelsund create his ideas for the poem’s book cover. It was awesome to listen to him narrate his thoughts and visually watch his ideas come together on the screen. It was also crazy how quickly he made each of these ideas come to life, but it’s just something that comes with years of practice I’m sure. It was also fun to watch him collage the words and daffodils. I don’t collage often, but it looks like fun and like it can lead to some pretty cool images and ideas.

In the conclusion section of the lesson, Peter Mendelsund emphasized the fact that when he shows a client a book cover, he only shows them one. He doesn’t show them multiple because it’s likely that the client would like different parts of each cover and would ask you to combine the ideas into one cover, or ask for more examples. As the artist, Mendelsund feels that he knows his work and will choose the one that he feels best represents the novel. He also emphasizes that before showing your cover to your client, you should always have other people look at it first. This includes: other designers, readers who have read the novel before, or anyone else, like your mom or brother. That way you can get some final feedback from an outside source to see if anything should be changed.

This was a fun and informative lesson! I loved being able to see the way Peter Mendelsund’s process works and hearing his thoughts while creating.

View the lesson here.

Under the Covers

Book Cover designs by Megan Wilson.

I just finished reading Five Questions for Vintage Art Director/ Designer Megan Wilson in Under the Covers. Megan Wilson is an art director at Vintage/Random House. She was born in NY but grew up in England. For the past twenty years, she’s lived in New York City. Her specialty is literary classics. It seems that one of the reasons Megan Wilson likes working with classics, is because the artists aren’t around anymore to complain, give their own input, or for Megan to explain her ideas to. She says, “because of who the authors are, they require no explanation; no author of or prize winner lines and no quotes. No authors to complain or send in their own bits of art.” She likes to use fine art and old images to create her book designs but they still feel modern. Megan says, “there is no reason why classics should all be set up with an identical panel accompanied by a dark and deadly sombre painting.” A lot of times, when I think about classic novels, I tend to picture this image, of an old painting in a frame with a title. I appreciate that she breaks this stereotype when she designs her book covers.

Something I love about Megan Wilson’s designs, is that they have a vintage look but still feel modern. She often uses a vintage image or idea but pairs it with a modern text or a modern use of display. I especially love the cover for The Letters of Noel Coward. The text is beautiful and the way it forms the smoke cloud is fun and ties the title in with the image.

“I use fine art more than the average cover designer and that is probably because of Duncan and a love of art history at school. There is so much out there that is brilliant and totally forgotten or unknown; a goldmine if one knows where to find it.” This is pretty cool. I would’t think to look back at old works to create a modern image. I like that she refers to these paintings as a goldmine. A lot of us don’t use these types of images in our current designs, and we just might be missing out!

Fabric Softener Redesign Mood Boards

Here are two mood boards for my Fabric Softener Redesign. There are two different scents for Hannaford’s brand of fabric softener sheets, Spring Fresh and Mountain Fresh.  the packaging is generic and sort of boring. My plan is to create a new, more elegant and pretty redesign of the product’s packaging. I want the customers to see it as different from the other items, a new look that will stand out and stick with them. My plan is to handletter the Spring Fresh and use a modern looking sans-serif for the other descriptive type on the box. I plan to use watercolor to paint flowers, that I will scan onto the computer and add to the design. I will paint a mountain scene for the Mountain Fresh  box. The board shows the colors and feel I’m aiming for!

The last two images are the products that I am going to re-brand.

Mood Board For Spring Fresh.
Mood Board for Mountain Fresh.